I realize my job is not really your average thing to do and gives me an insight in many different realities, but the examples of such a different reality pop up at unexpected moments. This morning when I was going over some report on the livelihood situation of rural communities in Mozambique, it happened again. It listed the result of a household survey on what assets they had to secure their livelihood: cattle, sheep/goats, poultry, donkeys, plants, agricultural tools, plow/cart.
The ‘pop’ came at ‘donkey’ and again with ‘plow/cart’. First I have a soft spot for donkeys. It probably started with the famous Eeyore and his even more famous friend Winnie the Pooh, watching the cartoons once upon a time in my youth. Eeyore’s pessimistic and glum reflections have made me laugh more than anything, but it has left me with a kind of sad perception on what they must feel like. The amount of work they do in a lot of African countries makes my heart bleed a little more. They literally work their asses off, while mostly boys and men hit their behinds with hopefully something lighter than a sturdy stick.
The other part plow/cart is connected to that same donkey when you see them pull these in the streets or (provincial) towns or on little plots of land. Oxfam works not on behalf of the donkey, but the small scale farmer that walks behind it or tries to stir the same stubborn donkey in the right direction on their land.
A sustainable livelihood for a small scale farmer might feel miles away from our daily realities, but they are the ones often producing in some kind of cooperative our chocolate beans, coffee, tea etc. Getting a fair price is essential for their survival. In the list of assets it stated for example average of plants per household member: 0,14 to 3,07. I don’t think any large scale farmer in the village where I grew up of that same Winnie the Pooh youth, could have told me their exact number of corn plants for example. Their number of cattle for sure, but 3 plants per household member would more likely have been closer to the number of acres of land they would have had, filled with ever so many plants or their 100 or so cows, 1000s of chickens or 100s of pigs. Nothing as little as a couple of plants on a tiny plot of land.
Next time you see Winnie the Pooh, or preferably Eeyore, you might have the same realisation as me, about that donkey and his small scale farmer, and know why you would like to pay a fair price for your coffee, tea or chocolate. Once this is done we can start campaigning for the donkeys (which on a side note is sometimes already done by other initiatives, because the better you treat your donkey, the longer it will be able to work for you!).